Changing generations one small business at a time.
It’s been said small businesses are the engine of our economy and the lifeblood of our communities. But creating, sustaining, and growing a small business comes with challenges, particularly for those owned by minorities and women. Any struggles that existed pre-pandemic have only been exacerbated. If there was any time to be a champion for these steadfast pillars of Main Street, it’s now.
Advocacy from an unexpected source.
Detra Miller, M&T Business Banking Regional Manager in Baltimore turned a passion for supporting small businesses into a day and often, night job. As a member of the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Banking (MWOB) team, Detra actively seeks out resources and access to support that extend beyond traditional banking.
“Women and minority-owned businesses are less likely to get funding to start or grow their ventures,” said Detra. She explained that these entrepreneurs are often hesitant to reach out for help because they have faced opposition and have begun to believe that their business model isn’t marketable, profitable, or bankable enough, and/or needs to be perfect before approaching a bank or investor.
Education leads to empowerment.
This type of thinking is related to decades of systemic inequality and bias across many industries. Knowing these obstacles to success exist only propels Detra and the team to do more. “Our goal is to be intentional about building bridges for businesses to grow and thrive,” she said. How do they do this? Through education and networking. The team members create connections through joining organizations, hosting, and attending events, and have worked with Marketing colleagues to build a microsite on the Bank’s business education center. Detra explains, “Many minority and women business owners may not seek us out for help, so we have to be where they are. We have to be seen to build a relationship that allows them to feel comfortable enough to open up.”
Building a comprehensive plan together often includes financial planning but there is much more. Detra and team guide business owners to develop three key practices:
1. Build a supportive network. Family, friends, bankers, and financial advisors are a good start. It is also important and advantageous to partner with organizations and market yourself for shelf space.
2. Develop a business plan that clearly states your mission, goals, and objectives. The plan is the foundation and backbone of your venture. Read more about how to develop a business plan.
3. Stay true to your brand. It is reasonable to reevaluate your business model overtime as you grow and evolve, but your core principles should always be consistent and never be compromised.
Creating lasting connections.
“Our relationship with these business owners continues as long as they need us,” said Detra. The team is committed to keeping the door open to help however they can. She added, “Even when we aren’t the ones who directly aid the client, it is so rewarding to know that a solution resulted because of our connections.”
Detra’s personal conviction has ignited a consciousness that has proliferated across the organization. “I feel good that M&T Bank has a deep commitment to the prosperity of small businesses and the advancement of opportunities for people of color, minorities and women,” she said. “We all play a crucial role in supporting today’s minority- and women-owned businesses, for the benefit of future generations.”